Three Things: Flying Moochin’ Mnuchin Air

Usually when I pull together a Three Things post they’re unrelated topics worth a quick look but not necessarily a full-blown post. This time these three things are related and I can’t write a post on each one because my blood pressure won’t handle it, thanks to Moochin’ Mnuchin.

~ 3 ~

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) recently FOIAd Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin’s travel data. You’ve probably heard by now about his use of military aircraft for eight trips costing nearly one million dollars. CREW looked at the regulations covering government travel and authorization for spending. Take the time to read their work, it’s worth the effort.

And then read the FOIAd records CREW shares, but only after you’ve taken your blood pressure medications and/or prepared for a tooth-grinding tension migraine. There were repeated indications to Mnuchin and staff these trips were expensive — one cost $26,953.33 when commercial airfare for the same trip was $688 per person.

It’s this trip which first made me do a double take, because Mnuchin’s plane was on the ground in Miami on June 15, 2017, for a mere two hours and 45 minutes or less.

Mnuchin traveled to Miami to attend the Conference on Prosperity and Security in Central America held at FIU’s campus, roughly 15 minutes by car from Miami International Airport. Assuming the travel times were prompt and on the mark, Mnuchin made it to the conference for a fucking two-hour lunch.

An institutionally-prepared $13,476-an-hour lunch.

But get this — here are the other U.S. attendees at this event:

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, and Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin co-hosted the Conference on Prosperity and Security in Central America in Miami, Florida on June 15-16, 2017 with Mexican Foreign Secretary Videgaray Caso, Interior Secretary Osorio Chong, and Secretary of Finance José Antonio Meade Kuribeña, and attended by President Jimmy Morales of Guatemala, President Juan Orlando Hernández of Honduras, and Vice President Oscar Ortiz of El Salvador. Other meeting participants included U.S. and Latin American private sector leaders, senior government representatives from Belize, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the European Union, Nicaragua, Panama, and Spain, and leaders from the Inter-American Development Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank. …

Mnuchin was a bloody co-host. Why did he not travel with one of the other co-hosts? Why did he have to commission his own military aircraft instead of tagging along with another cabinet member? Or even the vice-president?

Mnuchin’s use of military aircraft was repeatedly justified by the need for secure communications. The June 15 trip to Miami was one such occasion; a call on the return leg needed an aircraft on which persons without adequate security clearance would be traveling.

CREW noted this as well:

Two days before the scheduled departure, Treasury advised the FAA that “due to a new need to access to secured comms during this mission, which cannot be accommodated on the available aircraft, we are going to have to pull this mission down and will have to utilize another means of transport.” (UST 00024). The call was scheduled during the two and one-half hour return flight (UST 000063). The use of a military aircraft increased the cost of the approximately two-hour flight to $45,136 (UST 00003). In other words, a scheduling conflict that the Secretary apparently did nothing to avoid cost the government an additional $18,000. Of note, the five listed individuals on the manifest could have made the same trip on a commercial aircraft for approximately $3,440 (or $688 per person, UST 00001). …

Again, Mnuchin was a conference co-host. There were other cabinet members traveling to Miami. What was so bloody important that he couldn’t travel earlier with the rest of the U.S. co-hosts? Why did Mnuchin schedule a call needing secure communications two days before the trip?

And why over the last year was there repeated insistence on the availability of secure communications, unlike Mnuchin’s predecessors? What changed so dramatically about the Treasury Secretary’s job?

What might have been happening on June 15 about which Mnuchin knew more than 48 hours in advance?

~ 2 ~

Remember last year when I noted the odd timing of Jared Kushner’s unannounced, unpublicized trip to Saudi Arabia during which he had a pajama party of sorts with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman where they discussed who knows what?

It seemed quite the coincidence that Kushner arrived during Treasury Secretary Mnuchin’s publicized trip to Saudi Arabia. What incredible timing!

Except it wasn’t a coincidence. Our forgetful Boy Wonder was on the same goddamned military aircraft with Mnuchin, who had insisted on a military plane for access to secure communications.

Here’s a screenshot from page 57/126 (from document 2018-2-15-Production-redactions-applied.pdf via CREW), an amended request to White House by Treasury for mission support, required to obtain a military aircraft. Note the Requesting Principal and the trip’s purpose as well as the date, August 31:

Here’s a screenshot of page 59/126 from the manifest included with the same amended request:

Kushner isn’t mentioned in the request or the agenda except as a line item in the manifest; he appeared to be included in every leg of this trip, including a visit to United Arab Emirates and Qatar. There’s an awful lot of redacted material related to this trip, too, big swaths blanking out what could be entire emails or attachments.

Worth noting the FOIAd documents dated July 25 reflect this Middle East trip was originally scheduled for September; by August 31 the trip has been pushed back to October. The mission requested a plane with secure communications capability from the first, which does make sense in this case given the level of discussions being held between Treasury Department, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Qatar.

But the frequent insistence on secure communications capability and Kushner’s presence on this October trip spawns several questions: is the use of military aircraft a flying backchannel? Is Mnuchin equally invested in the use of a backchannel?

Was this trip really another negotiation related to the blockade of Qatar and was Kushner involved for that reason? Is this why his presence wasn’t openly communicated?

~ 1 ~

And then there’s the possibility Moochin’ Mnuchin took his spouse, our generation’s Marie Antoinette, for a vacation in Edinburgh, Scotland and other European locations using one of our military aircraft. I may have an aneurysm if I don’t stop here. Just look at the itinerary on page 66/126 and tell me what you make of it. I can’t find coincident formal events scheduled for Scotland or Italy, or for virtual attendance during this trip’s time frame. CREW reported the trip was their goddamned honeymoon (modifying epithet all mine).

Did Mnuchin and Linton seriously tie up a military aircraft so they could go walkabout in Scotland? Let me guess Linton is a big fan of the premium cable show Outlander and she wanted to take in the show’s shooting locations. The sole argument presented for the use of our military aircraft is “to be able to monitor issues [redacted], and participate in scheduled [redacted]” and the need for access to secure communications.

Don’t we have an undersecretary or a deputy to do whatever [redacted] so Mnuchin can take his honeymoon on his own time, on his own dime? Or is [redacted] something in which nobody else should be involved?

Go ahead and argue this trip request says it’s a “reimbursable mission.” This request is dated August 1, and his trip was from August 3 through August 12. This means our government personnel had to drop everything else they were doing during what is traditionally a short-staffed month and scramble to get this aircraft and crew and flight plan together for his damned honeymoon.

I suppose I should be less surprised by this wasteful crap bordering on theft after Mnuchin unnecessarily flew by military plane with the same high maintenance prima donna spouse to Fort Knox, just in time on August 8 to observe the rare complete solar eclipse.

I’m still suspicious of Mnuchin’s need for an entire bloody military plane and crew for his honeymoon so he has access to secure communications. Again, is this a flying backchannel he’s using? Does his wife have a security clearance necessary to hear whatever it is that’s so secret that he has to do it while on his honeymoon?

~ 0 ~

This is an open thread. Bring your pitchforks and torches.

24 replies
  1. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Marie Antoinette gets a bad rap.  Louise Linton deserves everything she gets.  How odd that, like Ivanka, her daddy should be a property developer, in Scotland, his and Louise’s home turf.

    I can see Mnuchin taking Louise on their honeymoon.  That should have been private time, and Steve could afford to charter his own G5 for that. He could have taken his work phone and computer for real emergencies.  But why bother when he can tell the Air Force to do it for free.  But it’s hard to see any reason for Louise to be on his other trips, especially that farce in Ft. Knox during the eclipse.  Unless Louise keeps Steve on such a short leash he had no option. It’s enough to make one rethink what Skull & Bones’ standards really are.

  2. cat herder says:

    And to think, I often feel guilty about taking my earned benefits of $980 a month, and when something happens like the city raises the water bill from $28 to $32 a month that means I end up with $4 less food.

    • Rayne says:

      Please don’t feel guilty about your benefits. We pay taxes to provide a safety for fellow Americans — it’s part of insuring domestic tranquility and promoting the general welfare. I feel ashamed you have to worry about an amount as small as $4. But we none of us should pay for this poorly-organized, thoughtless, spendthrift skeezeball who spent as much on a two-hour lunch trip as the average American family makes in half a year.

      • cat herder says:

        Well I did use a qualifier, ‘often’, which is much less than most of the time. On the good days I’m practically 100% functional and feel like I could do anything, that’s when I’m most likely to fall for the guilt trip. But then two or three days a week one of the bad days comes along and I’m back to reality.

        Thank you for the support, and for your pieces here.

  3. Cirze says:

    Or Duke Power screws with the rates again & you don’t have food for but three weeks of the month.
    Living is getting a lot more challenging lately.

  4. Lamsmy says:

    My best guess is that the supposed need for secure communications in-flight was just the excuse for having military aircraft as props in the Mnuchinworld fantasy lifestyle.

    If Mnuchin and co. were planning communications that they didn’t want anyone listening in on, would they really document that on a request form?

    • Rayne says:

      Somebody might have coached him on the secure comms=military plane, not sure. It seems very odd that a guy with zero experience working in government suddenly feels comfortable demanding secure comms-enabled military aircraft.

      I lean more toward the idea he’s an entitled asshole who thinks he can just demand something and it will appear, having come from the financial sector where without public scrutiny they thought nothing of spending $1,200 on a fucking office waste receptacle or a million bucks on an office renovation.

      He’s also been dabbling in Hollywood where people excel at appearances — did he make this look important enough that his staff would demand a secure comms-craft? Or did he simply expect his staff to make the request look legit?

      But none of this explains Mnuchin and Kushner on a plane together, traveling to the same destinations across the Middle East, while Qatar is under intense political pressure. And none of this explains why his wife and media members were flying on planes obtained because secure comms were necessary.

  5. Bardi says:

    About costs.  Don’t forget the economic costs imposed on other entities, carriers, airports and surrounding areas for providing access as well as “security” to military transport.  Depending on time of day these costs can be well north of stated “costs”.(I flew such military transport for several years, before it because a “business”, and know well how we impacted destination areas.)

    • Rayne says:

      Yup. I remember Cheney required the route between the airport and a speaking venue to be cleared (closed down) for 45 minutes ahead of his visit, and same length of time after, which meant the entire small city closest to me was shut down.

      But Mnuchin is a cabinet secretary, not certain the security would have been the same, especially since the biggest risks were already at FIU. There still would be lost opportunity costs all along the decision path Mnuchin took to Miami and back.

  6. posaune says:

    Thank you for this post, Rayne. (and that impressive timeline two weeks ago)
    The links are very useful. I dug into the documents and it’s overwhelming to look at how many instances the Mooch wasted tax dollars to serve his ego (with that of his leather gloved partner). I got so bleary eyed. These people have no idea what it means to save this kind of money, pay check by pay check, in the hopes of educating your child for future employment.

  7. pseudonymous in nc says:

    Munchkin is the first Treasury secretary to decide that “secure communications” has to be part of his travel arrangements, which co-ink-i-dink-ily means that he and Sophie McTrophy have to fly in military transport or private jets.

    The common thread with him and Zinke and Pruitt is that they think they are lords appointed by the king and deserve the trappings of the royal court.

    • Rayne says:

      Or the common thread is that they are co-conspirators defrauding the U.S.

      This post is why I think the Trump Toadies’ effort Marcy wrote about is about these two, Mnuchin and Kushner. Whatever they were talking/texting/emailing about over secure comms on those military aircraft is what they don’t want revealed.

      • NJrun says:

        I subscribe to the nefarious interpretation. Experience has shown with this group it never is wrong, except when it isn’t nefarious enough.

        • Rayne says:

          This is what really bothers me and keeps me up at night — I can’t think enough like a criminal, my tiny B-school didn’t offer courses in Money Laundering 101 and Hiding Things with Shell Companies 313. What could they be doing I would never imagine?

          Like Kushner Companies’ fraud in NY — wouldn’t occur to me to do this crap in rent-regulated buildings. What’s Kushner doing at scale? And what’s an entitled prat like Mnuchin doing to enable him?

          • posaune says:

            Exactly, Rayne!

            Having worked in NYC housing (1980’s-early90’s), co-founded a tenant’s union, so very familiar with owners of rent-regulated units ubiquitously skirting the rules.   Most commonly, “major capital improvements” to bring units to market rates.    I think the difference wrt Kushner (especially the Queensborough housing) is the audacity with which the Kushners lie!   They didn’t blink twice completing NYC Building Permit applications and checking “no” for rent regulated units (when there were > 300 stabilized units under RSA)!  Not even the appearance of compliance!  Pro forma to lie at the get-go.

            No wonder there were dozens of SF-86’s filed. In the end, there will a revised SF-86 for each lie! They just keep lying until caught.

  8. SpaceLifeForm says:

    Follow the money.

    If secure comms are needed dealing with money, that is the big hint.  Global Conspiracy via money fits many scenarios over many decades.

  9. Jim Cooper says:

    I was curious to if Kushner needed a clearance to be on the same plane and while searching for an answer, came upon a mystery.  Why would nicoe.capmed.mil suddenendly be blocked after having been previously scraped by a search engine?

    https://duckduckgo.com/?q=do+reporters+need+a+security+clearance+site%3Awww.nicoe.capmed.mil&atb=v61-1_a&ia=web

    You have attempted to access a blocked website. Access to this website has been blocked for operational reasons by the DOD Enterprise-Level Protection System.

    Every page on the site is now blocked, including their media guide.  Paranoid much?

    • SpaceLifeForm says:

      This could indicate hacked. Or maybe the particular website should never have visible to the www in the first place.

      It could be simple mismangement of DNS (not managing zones properly). The site is 4 level dns.

      http://www.nicoe.capmed.mil/About%20Us/SitePages/Welcome_04.aspx

      So capmed.mil may be managed ok for dns, but the zone nicoe for dns may be misconfigured.

      Numerous people have pointed to this particular problem for years.

      The filter software is intended for egress, not ingress.
      Could be a routing issue also.
      Or combo of a hacked router (likely) and BGP poisoning.

      It could be a combo of SIPRNET VPN problem and Routing (BGP) issue.

      But, the public Internet side should *not* see this error screen. Hell, even mil folk should not see it either!

      I vote hacking op (no attribution!).

      But, it could just be simple screwup, except that it has been happening for years.

      I’m going with SIPRNET VPN and Routing problem. That is not to imply no hacking!

      Jake will prob get someone on this once he sees this.
      (even though it is not his responsibilty)

      APPLICATION: qos-mission-critical-pan

      This is a DoD enterprise-level protection system intended to reduce risk to DoD users and protect DoD systems from intrusion. It will block access to high-risk websites and filter high-risk web content.

  10. matt says:

    is the use of military aircraft a flying backchannel?

    Yes.  One that other billionaire families must be extremely jealous of.

  11. david_l says:

    Let’s cut to the chase: Mnuchin is worth $300+ Million, he has already intentionally you-know-whatted the taxpayers out of $1 Million – at least – and he will no doubt go on you-know-whatting us out of as much as he can, just more carefully.

    And that’s not counting his tax “reform” plan payday.

    As the former Prez would say: “C’mon, Man”.

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